How to Edit Your Own Book

17 November, 2020 § Leave a comment

When you write those two most satisfying words “The End”, it is a bittersweet moment. Getting to that point could represent a couple of days if you’re Stephen King or over a year’s worth of sweating out characters and plots to finish your novel. But the savvy writer knows that moment of celebration is the forerunner to lots more hard work: the revising and editing process where you put your words through a fine sieve to reveal the gems and wash out the mud. It’s a tough task if you’re in love with your word magic. No one wants to sacrifice their babies, but the reader wants you to do that so you create not just a well-written book but a well-read one.

A very useful presentation on what to keep in mind when revising and editing your own novel or non-fiction piece is on video with a series of authors and editors offering expert tips and ideas and how to make the process easier and more productive for you.

Key points …

  • be willing to cut anything to strengthen the story
  • read your dialogue out loud
  • use action verbs to drive the story
  • avoid passive writing
  • watch “I felt like” and convert it into descriptive (show v tell)
  • ensure all paragraphs and scenes are in sequence
  • make sure characters are consistent throughout
  • once you finish your first draft, put it aside for a while
  • read other people’s books and flag ideas/phrases/descriptions that impact you and learn how the writer raised your emotion
  • go back to your book and flag what’s worked well in your story
  • look for content issues first
  • review style, voice and scene issues and note what to improve/cut
  • revisit the third time and go over punctuation, structure, complicated sentences etc
  • now go back and revise using your flags and notes
  • consider copy-editing as you go eg read what wrote day before and notice simple errors
  • wait until the end for structural editing – much easier to edit something that’s finished
  • tools for editing depends on the type of edit
    • spell check
    • grammar check – automated and manual – look for obvious issues like that/which
    • recognise the limitations of any tool you use
  • beware of overusing adverbs (eg very, really etc)
  • make sure the character’s voices are distinctive
  • get someone else to help critique to pick up any misses from reading and reviewing your own work

Those are just my summary notes – watch the video for more detail, especially the first 2-3 sessions.

Write – revise – edit – rewrite – revise – edit – rewrite – revise edit … until you’ve polished the best book you can produce. Of course, if you snag a traditional publishing contract then some of the work will be done for you, the than the writing. If you self publish, the more you revise and edit, the better your readers experience will be. A professional editor is valuable if you can spring the money for it: if not, do the work.

Bloody Scotland – Brilliant Crime Festival

1 October, 2020 § Leave a comment

I discovered Bloody Scotland by accident, and I’m glad I did.

It’s a bloody wonderful festival chock-full of crime writers including luminaries such as Val McDermid, Lee Child and more. There’s nothing wee abood it!

If you want to get your fill of intense input on writing and reading crime – tap into the minds of these generous soles.

You can watch replays of the virtual sessions on their YouTube Channel. Here is the excellent opener and there is a full playlist of talks available.

WARNING – these vids are only live until the end of October 2020.

Get to it!

And then start planning your trip to Scotland for 2021’s festival … Covid-19 permitting!

Audio Fiction – the next big thing

15 March, 2020 § Leave a comment

Radio drama series were a welcome form of entertainment before television took precedence in homes.

We’ve had blockbuster T.V series and movies. Visual entertainment continued but as with many things, evolution keeps changing the landscape.

More recently audiobooks and podcasts have surged in popularity, especially for those on long commutes.

The circle turns and the new kid on the block is audio fiction and it’s already capturing attention and funding from big names.

Not quite radio drama, audio fiction is not dissimilar. Plays produced and transmitted without visuals.

Read more about here …

https://apple.news/Akf3GeASsQ3-F1HGTgSb9TQ

Advice from an Emerging Writer Having Success

26 January, 2020 § Leave a comment

A friend of mine was chuffed to get a guernsey in a UK writing mag. He had an article published about playing to your strengths.

Now, Greg provides great advice from his own experience and you can definitely benefit from that.

But think about the achievement of having an article you wrote being published on a broader stage and subtly promoting your writing and books.

Clever man, our Greg.

Always have a purpose in what you do, while writing for your audience.

Go read his article.

https://www.writers-online.co.uk/how-to-write/how-to-play-to-your-strengths-as-a-self-published-writer/

Work out what you can take away from it.

Note the strategy and emulate it when the time is right.

Image Greg Reed

Making a Writers Challenge Work For You

11 January, 2020 § Leave a comment

Writing challenges are terrific to spark your productivity and focus. It doesn’t matter what kind of challenge – just focused action with butt in chair doingness.

If you want to get the best out of any challenge, here are two key things you need to do.

Schedule the time

That’s right. Drag out your trusty diary – digital or paper – and plug in the times to be allocated to this challenge. Then stick to it! Some challenges will have specific times allocated where everyone in the challenge gets on a call or skype in or whatever.

Check the times and dates, double check any time-zone calculations if needed, and mark those times out in your diary. They are non-negotiable appointments with yourself.

Here’s a tip – sync all your diaries so you don’t miss the time!

Set up a reminder to alert you ahead of time to get ready. You know, grab your coffee, get your papers together, kick start the computer, sharpen the pencil, grab the sign-in details and chocolate (always chocolate).

Be ready.

writing challenge

Decide on your priorities

It helps to know ahead of time what you’ll use this time for.Obviously if you sign up for a 30 day squat challenge, you know exactly what you’ll be doing. But in writing, we have so many choices 🙂 Will you work on your book, your book front matter, your back matter, your author platform pieces, your quarterly planning schedule …?

As soon as you sign up for the challenge, write down what prompted you to do so. Usually, there is something in the back of your mind, prompting you to join, that said ‘this will help me to …’. That. Write that down. And if you can’t remember, write down a  shopping list of the things you need to be getting on with. Then pick which is most important and can be progressed in the time frame you’ve got. Notice I didn’t say completed. It’s about moving forward. If you can complete something, all the better. But don’t overly stress yourself.

Know what you are going to work on before you start the challenge.

30 Writing Challenge Activity Ideas

Here’s a grab-bag of activities and tasks that might inspire you to get underway or done during a challenge.

  1. write a chapter in your book
  2. brainstorm chapter titles and choose the best ones
  3. mock up an idea of your cover design before getting it done professionally
  4. review your book notes and refine any ideas
  5. create a book plan if you don’t have one
  6. outline your blurb
  7. draft your book’s premise
  8. set up your front matter eg dedication, acknowledgement, disclaimer etc
  9. sketch out your characters – protagonist, antagonist, others
  10. make notes about your setting to stay consistent
  11. list a set of questions your non-fiction book will answer for the reader
  12. prepare a speech you plan to give eg at a local library book launch
  13. write up a blog post or ideas for a series of blog posts
  14. write an essay or an article for publication
  15. create a series of social media posts
  16. prepare a publishing calendar including social media, blog, newsletter
  17. think up some swag ideas to sell on Etsy then create them
  18. put together a timeline to finish and publish your book
  19. write a set of course notes and materials
  20. draft a description and keywords for your Amazon listing
  21. compile a book bible including mock cover, and all elements (setting, characters, chapters, messages)
  22. prepare a set of questions you’d want to answer in an interview about your book
  23. create a freebie lead magnet, giveaway, reader/subscriber gift – journal, planner, checklist, quiz, workbook, recipes, extra stories about characters – be imaginative
  24. write a prequel to your book series
  25. generate ideas for a pen name and decide on one
  26. set up digital spaces for your author platform eg website, facebook, etc
  27. draft and finalise your author bio
  28. check your online branding is consistent across platforms
  29. prepare for your book-signing event (include extra pens)
  30. create a calendar of events/activities for the year

Note that a writing challenge doesn’t have to be about the act of writing. It can be, but if you are also a self-publisher then there are lots of moving parts to distribute and market your books. In that case, there are even more activities you could take action on.

Ideally, you are set up with a plan and are working towards an end goal. If not, then any activity that enhances what you are doing is good. Better is when  you select tasks to tie on with your overarching plan. That’s why you need to set your priorities before heading in to a challenge. Work hard on the right things.

Challenge Yourself

Of course, you don’t need a collective writing challenge: do a challenge on your own. Set a specific day and timeframe, say Thursday from 1-3pm. Mark that in your diary. Decide what exactly you will work on, say drafting a table of contents. Note that in your diary too. Decide where you’ll do it and get everything ready before your time starts so you can hit the ground running. Get into the routine of doing a self-challenge a week and you can make progress faster on things that matter.

I challenge you to join a challenge or set your own. DO it now. Your future writing productivity will thank you for it.

A Good Story Creates an Experience

14 December, 2019 § Leave a comment

A good story creates an experience and puts you in it, living and feeling it as if you were there.

Jerry Cleaver

I wonder how many books you’ve read that you’ve sat alongside and said as you were reading – this is good, or, this is bad. If you’re like me, you either get pulled into a story and carried along with it, or you struggle through for a while trying to find the point when it will grab you and if it doesn’t, you give up and put it aside.

As a writer, we tend to write from within and put those thoughts on the page. Rarely do we write from the readers’ perspective. If we stopped every few sentences and checked our writing from the view of the reader, we’d take forever to finish a book. That’s what rewriting and editing are for – to enhance the readability and engagement of the story.

Next time you sit down to read, take note of what you’re subconsciously thinking as you start a book. Consider what it is about the writing that is keeping you reading. If you’re a writer, take that information and try to emulate it in your own writing. The best teacher of craft is to read good stories and apply what you learn.

Now, go create an experience for your readers.

jerry cleaver quote

Clive James: A Poet Passes

28 November, 2019 § Leave a comment

Clive James.

Another literary legend lost.

Clive James death

photo credit clivejames.com

His death last Sunday is punctuated by the volumes of words from this prodigious talent. A critic, intellectual, broadcaster, presenter and ever-improving poet James has left an indelible mark on Australia and the world.

The ‘kid from Kogarah’ who traversed those suburbs a couple of decades before I lived there, managed to propel himself from suburban life to being a player on a far larger stage.

There were elements of James’ personality and behaviour that rankled yet none can deny the way his words leapt into your soul like a burr in a shoe demanding to be noticed.

He was someone I’m happy to have admired from afar. I suspect had I been a dinner guest I would have been swallowed like a minnow by his gigantic mind and acerbic wit, being left as pulp to be rinsed off the dinner plate.

Above all else, poetry was his literary love.

Read some of Clive James.

Watch his videos.

Take on board his turn of phrase.

Study him.

See the effect his words have on your writing.

Make that your tribute to him.

Clive James on Poetry

credit: ABCmedia

 

12 Facts About James Patterson

19 October, 2019 § Leave a comment

When you look to models of success in writing, James Patterson has to be at or near the top of your list. You may not enjoy his books but you can’t deny his prodigious talent. Those writers looking for exemplary models of the craft of writing need to look elsewhere for a role model.

james-patterson-author

If you’re looking, however for how to earn a living from your writing, how to find and satisfy readers, and how to leave a legacy as a writer, then it’s worth the effort to study Patterson.

How do you study an author?

Read that author’s books for a start.

Follow them on social media. Research their path to success. Note the key indicators which you could replicate.

In the case of James Patterson, there are multiple credits to claim him as a role model from which to learn.

  1. first ebook author to sell a million ebooks
  2. 114 New York Times Best Sellers
  3. a PhD candidate at Vanderbilt Uni
  4. Wrote 10 books while CEO of J Walter Thompson, North America
  5. in 1991 one of his books was produced for television
  6. his first book was rejected 31 times
  7. he won the Edgar Award for best new novel in 1977
  8. currently produces 20 books each year with collaborators
  9. he has written over 147 novels since 1976
  10. he writes in thrillers, non-fiction, romance, young adult, children
  11. in 2016 he was the highest-paid author at $95m
  12. he has sold more than 230 million books

In summary, for me, these facts tell me that Patterson is an intelligent person who has practised success academically and in his career. Once you taste success then you are more likely to be successful in more than one area of your life. Patterson seems to have a talent in the areas he chooses to move into.

He is driven by achievement. Whether he set out to win awards or not I can’t say. That he can claim credit to multiple awards wins since his first is clear. A person accustomed to success usually looks to the recognition of that success and in writing, awards are one of those markers. It would not surprise me that Patterson aimed for certain awards.

He writes to market. As a savvy advertiser of many years, Patterson would have recognised where to focus his efforts if he wanted to be a successful author.

He shares his largesse. He is comfortable mentoring other writers and helping them to succeed. Add to that his extensive and impressive philanthropic pursuits. Patterson reinvests in the industry which has embraced his work.

He is prepared to test new waters. Switching genres is not recommended but once you’re successfully published in one space it is a new challenge to explore and succeed in other genres.

Patterson is often criticized for his collaborations and that he writes less than plots. At 72 years of age and with such a massive back-catalogue, we might forgive him his effort to continue publishing.

What warms me to Patterson’s highly commercial approach is his philanthropic position. He has instigated awards and campaigns to encourage reading and directly contributes to many causes and organizations which support literacy.

Patterson has never claimed to be a craftsman. He aims for commercial success and his fans have a voracious appetite. How can that be wrong?

Read more details through https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Patterson.

 

Creating Fantasy Worlds: J K Rowling

12 October, 2019 § Leave a comment

J.K. Rowling has created arguably the most fantastical world in contemporary times.

Her success in the Potter franchise is widely acknowledged.

Writing fantasy fiction in any form has not been my interest even though I love Harry Potter and the entire series. I was as captivated as any child, reading those books. Even though it’s not my genre as a writer, I respect Rowling’s genius in creating her amazing world.

If you want to get a glimpse of what’s involved in creating such a world then reading these insights is worth your while.

It’s through the detail and integrity of place and people that Rowling has captured her world for all to share.

Now, if you want to learn from a highly successful writer, then this video is one to watch.

Early on you will see that she was passionate about creating her world (even if she did get the train station wrong). The completeness of her notes and drawings and scribbles is a testament to someone who lived her imagination so continuously.

What you’ll also learn is how disorganised she may seem (though she knows where everything is) and, how focussed she was on the minutiae of her world to make it authentic.

Note: she redid chapter one some 15 times until she felt she had it right. (And I groan at doing my first edit!). It’s a great reminder to analyse your story to make sure you’re not giving away the plot too early and to feel ok letting some of your words go.

“It felt as though I was carving a book out of this mass of notes …condensing and editing and sculpting.” If you have enough material, you have the luxury of deciding what to leave out, what to put where and how to best massage your story.

Watch the video and make sure you take notes. Learn from the greats.

 

Taree Scribblers Writing Group

5 October, 2019 § Leave a comment

I love a good writing group. And there are plenty of them. Taree Scribblers is one.

Writing Groups

Writing groups run along similar lines but do it differently which is why one’s experience of a writing group varies from one to another. Much of the variation between writing groups is down to both the process they follow and the mix of people in the room.

Even though it was a 170km round trip to head to Taree, it was definitely worth the effort.

When you join up somewhere new, you want to feel welcomed and the Taree Scribblers crew did that. A friendly and inclusive mob of writers.

When you join a writing group you want to feel that you gain a benefit in some way.

For some, it is simply to escape the isolation of writing alone and have a writerly chat over a cuppa. For others, it’s getting their work validated through reading or critique. Others prefer to learn something through a workshop or lesson on some aspect of their craft. Yet others, it’s about practising their craft through writing sessions or exercises.

Taree Scribblers covers all those bases.

At the session I attended there was a brief cover of general business to update the membership on things such as competitions, publications, financials etc.

Read Your Writing Out Loud

Then onto reading of short pieces for those who wanted to play. Each month they set a theme word or phrase and I’d been forewarned so had my 500 words ready. When you read aloud there’s always something of the shy 10-year-old that pops up and cringes wondering if it’s boring or tiresome or inadequate. No such feelings at Taree Scribblers. Each piece was warmly received: all writers were of a confident and capable standard. I felt my piece said ‘I deserve a place at your table’. It was my credibility stake in the ground. Once I’d heard others, I knew I could learn from this group of published and polished writers.

Writing Competitions

After a short tea break it was onto a workshop session covering how competitions are judged and how to prepare your submission for success. This was an excellent session and I wish I’d realised it was on – I had to leave early for another appointment but would have made arrangements to stay for the whole session. Anything run by Jacqueline Winn is worth sticking around for!

So for my money, I’ll be back. Taree Scribblers is now a regular on my calendar.

Check out writer’s groups in your neck of the woods and get along to see how well it matches your needs as a writer.

Taree Scribblers

Taree Scribblers meet the second Wednesday of the month in Taree from 10-12.30/1pm.

taree scribblers